Moving to The United States – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats, & Digital Nomads

Moving to The United States – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats, & Digital Nomads

January 16, 2024 13 min read

Two men eating pizza in a U.S. city

In the modern age, the world has become a lot smaller than it used to be. People used to be closed into their corner of their own country and the world, but with modern technology, friends, family, and companies can communicate with people across the world effortlessly.

As a result, finding opportunities whether cultural, educational, or professional across borders has become a regular occurrence. A country like the United States is known for its strong economy that abounds with economic opportunity. For immigrants interested in moving to the United States for whatever reason, it’s important to know your options and rights before making your move.

This immigrants & digital nomads guide to the United States exists to help prepare you for moving to the United States — and to ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible.

Things to do before moving to the United States

Before you take the leap and move to the United States, there are certain legal requirements and restrictions to remember. And as with any major life change, it’s good to consider your finances, housing options, healthcare, and social networking opportunities once you arrive.

Legally preparing to move to the United States

If you’re not originally from the United States but plan to live and work there, you must complete the legal immigration process. Depending on your country of citizenship and circumstances, you may be able to obtain temporary or permanent residency — or even citizenship. Some foreign nationals do not need a visa to visit the U.S., provided they stay for no more than 90 days.

In many cases, you’ll need to begin the process with a visa and a passport. The United States offers several types of visas for those entering the country, each with its own requirements and purpose. Here are the main ones:

  • Tourism visa: If you’re a foreign national seeking to visit the U.S. for tourism, vacation, unpaid social events, or medical treatment, you may need to apply for a B-2 visitor visa. Citizens of certain countries, such as Canada or Bermuda, typically do not need this visa.
  • Study and exchange visa: If you’re a student, you may be eligible for a student visa (F-1 or M-1 visa) or exchange visitor visa (J visa). This visa may last the duration of your program or visit, though you may need to renew it during your studies. You might also be able to work while on one of these visas. Learn more about the regulations and requirements here.
  • Business visa: The U.S. business visa (B-1) allows you to conduct temporary or short-term business transactions within the country. This may apply to digital nomads or migrants if the visit entails settling an estate, negotiating contracts, or consulting with business associates.
  • Immigration visa: If you want to live in the U.S. long-term, you may be able to get an immigration visa. There are several types, such as employment, diversity, and family-based visas.
  • Work visa: The U.S. has several temporary and long-term employment visas, each with its own requirements. You may need to meet specific minimum education requirements, work in a certain industry, or work for a U.S.-based employer. Learn more about these visas and whether you’re eligible as a digital nomad.
  • Other visas: For special or unique circumstances, you may want to consider applying for a different type of U.S. visa. Review the requirements and restrictions carefully.

The United States also does not have a specific digital nomad visa. If you want to move to the country while keeping your remote job, you must ensure you adhere to any legal requirements.

Budgeting for your move to the United States

Moving abroad can be expensive, so it’s essential to budget for your move before you go. Not only that, but some visas require proof that you have enough money to cover your stay while in the U.S.

Here are some of the biggest things to budget for when moving abroad:

  • Travel expenses: These generally include your airfare (one-way or round-trip), hotel or other temporary accommodation, and transportation once you’re in the country, such as taxi, metro, or bus fare.
  • Everyday costs: Determine how much money you’ll need for groceries, health or travel insurance policies, and other day-to-day expenses.
  • Lifestyle expenses: From entertainment to leisure to hobbies, it’s important to consider the cost of your desired lifestyle.
  • Housing expenses: Whether you rent or buy a home, you may have to budget for the rent, mortgage, utilities, property taxes, and homeowners or renter’s insurance. The average cost of rent in the U.S. is $1,702.
  • Visa costs: Account for any visa or other fees related to the immigration process.
  • Miscellaneous expenses: These could include currency exchange fees, international movers’ fees, and more. Leave a financial buffer in your budget, just in case.

You may also want to create an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. It should have at least a few months’ worth of living expenses. Numbeo estimates that the average cost of living for one person in the U.S. is $1,173.20 without rent. Ideally, you should have at least three times that amount — $3,519.60 — plus rent saved up before you move.

How would I setup a bank account in the United States?

You may be able to open a bank account in the United States. To do this, you’ll generally need:

  • Two or more forms of ID
  • Home or permanent residence address in the U.S.
  • Foreign tax identification number (FTIN)

You may also need additional information, such as a valid visa and passport.

If you do not want to open a bank account, you can use a digital wallet to manage your finances while living abroad. Or you can use Ria, an international remittance service that lets you manage your money, make transfers, pay bills, cash checks, top up your mobile, and more — all online.

How to find a job in the United States

You’ll typically need the correct visa or permit to work in the United States as a non-U.S. citizen. There are both temporary and permanent work options available. You may also be eligible for work if you file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You can find job positions on LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, or FlexJobs. Or you can check with the USAJOBS website for information about finding work with the federal government as a non-U.S. citizen.

How to connect with other migrants, expats, and remote workers in the United States

When moving abroad, finding and building a solid social network is key to assimilating into the country and culture. The good news is that around 13.6% of the United States population is considered ‘foreign-born.’ So, if you’re looking for opportunities to connect with other expats or digital nomads like yourself, you’ve got options.

You can also connect with other expats on social media platforms like Facebook (Meta). Simply look for groups of foreigners or digital nomads in your area and start reaching out.

How does healthcare work in the United States?

In the United States, most people are no longer required to obtain health insurance coverage. But having healthcare can provide peace of mind in case something happens while abroad that requires a hospital visit, vaccine, or even a routine check-up.

If you’re immigrating to the U.S., you should be eligible for a healthcare plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This is essentially a platform where you can find and purchase health insurance in your state.

You can also get a short-term international health insurance plan, like Atlas America or Safe Travels USA Comprehensive.

What are the best cities for expats and digital nomads in the United States?

When you can work from anywhere in the United States, finding the best city or state can be tricky. And while you can always change your mind after picking a place, moving might complicate visa processes or be expensive.

According to Reviews.org, the best cities in the U.S. for digital nomads are:

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Austin, Texas
  • Houston, Texas
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • San Francisco, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle, Washington

Think about your preferences regarding weather or climate, population, cultural events, cuisine, diversity, recreational activities, and scenery. Also, consider your budget when choosing a place to live.

Questions about living in the United States

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the overall cost of living, taxes, currency and language, and residency requirements in the United States.

What’s the cost of living in the United States like?

In a survey of 100 countries, the United States ranked the 17th most expensive country to live in. The cost of living in the U.S. is higher than in the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe. However, it’s lower than other countries, like Luxembourg, Norway, Ireland, and the Cayman Islands. The cost of living in the US may be high but this is offset by a high paying jobs market and a robust economy. Most migrants interested in moving to the United States move their primarily for the economic opportunities offered.

You can check out sites like Numbeo to compare the cost of living in different U.S. cities and states with where you currently live.

What will I need to move to the United States?

Before moving to the United States as a digital nomad, you should create a moving abroad checklist that covers the essentials, such as:

  • Legal requirements: Find out whether you need a visa or permit to live and work in the country.
  • Financial considerations: Consider the cost of legal documents, international moving expenses, and other financial aspects of the move.
  • Budget: Create a personal budget covering all your fixed and variable expenses. This should include housing, utilities, groceries, dining out, entertainment, hobbies, transportation, insurance premiums, and miscellaneous.
  • Emergency fund or savings: You may need to provide proof of sufficient funds before getting your visa or entering the country. It also helps to have an emergency fund for unplanned expenses.
  • Housing: Make sure you have a couple of options for where you’ll live once in the United States. This includes short-term accommodations, like a hotel, and long-term housing, like an apartment. Consider using an international relocation service to help with this.
  • Way to access your funds: You’ll need some way to access your money while overseas. Choose a method that’s convenient, secure, and accessible. This could be a U.S. bank account or a digital wallet. Or it could be an international remittance service like Ria, which is based in the United States and has over 500,000 physical branches worldwide.

What are taxes like in the United States?

The United States has several types of taxes, including income tax, sales tax, property tax, gift tax, and capital gains tax. Check with your state or federal government about the applicable taxes or consult a legal professional experienced in immigration law or international taxes.

A tax calculator can give a rough estimate of what your taxes will be depending on your income, state, and tax filing status.

What’s the currency in the United States?

The United States’ official currency is the United States Dollar (USD). Several other countries, such as Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guam, also use this currency.

Use an online currency converter to determine the value of the USD compared to your currency.

How long can I stay in the United States without becoming a citizen?

You can generally stay in the United States without becoming a citizen for the duration of your visa or residency permit.

If you want to become a citizen, you’ll have to go through the legal process. This can be complicated and lengthy, especially if you’re doing it alone and do not have any ties to the country. However, you can get a lawyer to help you along the way.

What will I need to become a citizen of the United States?

Before becoming a U.S. citizen, you must complete the naturalization process from the USCIS. This process includes determining citizenship eligibility, naturalization types, required forms, and applicable fees. You’ll also need to be at least 18 years old and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years (three years if you’ve married a U.S. citizen).

If you’re eligible, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Fill out Form N-400 (this requires some documentation, such as two passport photos, photocopies of your Permanent Resident Card, and a money order)
  • Provide any other required documents (depending on how you plan to become a citizen)
  • Complete an interview and naturalization test (which includes an English proficiency test)
  • Pay any fees
  • Participate in the Oath of Allegiance ceremony

Does the United States offer digital nomad visas?

The U.S. does not offer digital nomad visas. You may still be able to work as a digital nomad if you meet specific legal requirements. However, you can find workarounds through things like a tourist visa which will allow you to live and work in the country for a 6-month interval.

How much does it cost to move to the United States?

Moving to the United States comes with various costs, such as airfare, short- and long-term accommodations, healthcare, and other international moving costs. Your costs will largely be determined by your personal situation. But regardless of your personal situation it’s a good idea to take some time to calculate all of these costs before deciding to move abroad.

Is the United States a good choice for European expats & migrants?

If you’re European, the United States could be a great choice. Depending on your home country, you may be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows you to stay for up to 90 days in the U.S. for business or tourism reasons — without applying for a visa.

The only difficulty is if you want to extend your stay beyond 90 days. In that case, however, you could still be eligible for other types of U.S. visas.

Is the United States a good choice for North American expats & migrants?

If you already live in a North American country, such as Canada, the transition to the U.S. could be easier and cheaper than if you were to come from further abroad. There may also be fewer language barriers or instances of culture shock.

For citizens of Canada and Bermuda, you do not need a nonimmigrant visa. This makes it easier to tour and visit the U.S. You could also stay in the country for up to six months without a visa.

Is the United States a good choice for Asian expats & migrants?

The United States could also be ideal for Asian expats. Depending on your home country, however, you may face language or cultural barriers. You might need to go through stricter legal processes if you want to stay in the country long-term.

Is the United States safe?

Overall, the U.S. is considered a safe country. The Government of Canada lists the country’s Risk Level as ‘normal.’ The FBI also indicates that national violent crime decreased by 1.7% last year.

That said, it’s important to consider safety and crime when moving abroad. Do your research into different cities and neighborhoods before committing to anywhere in particular. Even if you choose a historically safe place to stay, you should still be wary of your surroundings and personal belongings.

Can I move to the United States without knowing English?

Although the United States has no official language, most people speak English. If you plan to become a citizen, you’ll generally need to pass an English language proficiency test as part of the naturalization process.

Is it worth moving to the United States from Europe?

This depends on your personal circumstances and goals. The United States has a lot to offer in terms of work opportunities, cuisine, diversity, and natural environment. Regardless of who you are, there’s a good chance you’ll find a place and lifestyle that works for you.

Is it worth moving to the United States from Latin America?

The answer to this question ultimately depends on your personal situation. Most people moving from Latin America to the United States are moving there for greater work opportunities. The United States is an enormous country encapsulating many different cities, cultures, and languages. Everyone’s experience will be a little different but whatever you are looking for you’ll be able to find it somewhere in the U.S.

Useful resources for expats in the United States

Looking for some great resources for immigrants, digital nomads, and other expats in the United States? Here are just a few to get you started:

If you want more information about living overseas, Ria’s got you covered with expat guides, digital nomad guides, and other resources for expats. And if you’re looking for a better way to manage your money while abroad, Ria lets you send or receive money overseas, pay bills, cash checks, make mobile deposits, and much more.

Learn more about Ria or create a free account today.

About the author

Lisa Hong

Lisa Hong is Ria’s Web Content Specialist. Born in the U.S. with relatives in South Korea, she enjoys helping others connect with their loved ones through education on remittances and tech.

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